Monday 31 October 2016

Stop 20: Riau Islands - Tanjung Pinang. October 27 - 31 2016. Farewell.

Our welcoming committee - The Navy making their presence felt as we motored towards Tanjung Penang.
Our journey to Tanjung Pinang (TP) was filled with a mixture of emotions. Sadness as this was the end point of the rally, excitement because it also meant new beginnings of life in Asia on our own and the usual thrill of arriving in a new place to explore..

At TP we anchored at 00 56.20N & 104 26.56E, in about 6.6 meters of water, with a mud bottom and as it turned out very good holding. The anchorage is well protected but very exposed to the west. All our guide books all said the same thing and as it turned out every single squall we had all came from the west.

We stayed 4 days at TP and left the morning of the 5th day bound for Palau Nongsa to anchor prior to crossing the Singapore Strait into Malaysia. Whilst some yachties will claim it is the busiest strait in the world to cross, that accolade actually goes to the Strait of Dover. Singapore Strait is the worlds 3rd busiest strait. However, do not under estimate your crossing of the strait.

Here are few pointers:
  • You can only cross in day light hours
  • We crossed at the second allocated section located at: 01 10.17N & 103 50.44E to 01 11.50N & 103 49.68E. this is the narrowest section and it only took us 12 minutes to cross at 6 knots. Once crossed over we ran along the westbound shipping lane towards the strait to Puteri Harbour Marina
  • do not hesitate
  • be calm
  • wait for a clear and wide gap from both lanes, these giants move very fast
  • a lot of the ships are anchored both sides of the strait making it look worse than what it is 
  • understand you can not cross into Singapore waters unless you are staying in Singapore waters. The minute your cross over and enter their waters you will be called on the radio by either the coast guard, police and or the Singapore Navy and you will be asked your intentions. 
  • AIS. We all found it difficult to establish if it is illegal to cross without a transmitter, some websites say yes, some say no its not law. However, the shipping lane is busy and it is your to benefit and safety for these ships to be able to see you just as much for you to see them on AIS
  • At the time of our crossing (November 2016), it was not compulsory to announce ourselves on channel 18
Matilda is the red boat - center of screen. Screen shot taken just prior to crossing.
We actually found the Malaysian side of the strait, busier than the shipping lanes. The ships not in the shipping lanes are free to move around as they need. There are no allocated areas for movement. We found this more stressful than the crossing itself. These waters are very, very busy with many different types of vessels and everyone on board should be looking out at all times. Use your AIS to see around corners and do not cross their paths, you need to move out of their way. Once in the strait between Malaysia & Singapore to Puteri Harbour Marina, the chaos will cease and everyone can exhale!

We had to give way to this massive barge as we entered the narrow channel.
Anyway back to TP. Our farewell dinner to be honest was a let down. The process of checking out was stressful and we experienced one of the worst storms we have ever sat at anchor in for years. Other than that, TP has everything you need. Do the tours, it a very interesting place. We had a day where we went to a shopping mall, a market, a squid factory, saw some traditional batik being done and went to a massive Buddhist temple.

Dried squid.

The bay is deceptive, it can house many boats at anchor. This means many dingys heading to shore. Our jetty dock at the time had 3 entry points: 2 on the same platform, one with round steps one with flat - as usual all made out of bamboo. The third was attached to the other platform but very poor construction and one of members actually fell through and it was amazing he did not pierce himself or sustain any injuries. Be very careful on the jetty docks.

Our dingy dock. The little hut with the pointy roof to the right of screen was the dangerous one.
The farewell dinner was a let down. Our itinerary told us to be at Government house (we could easily walk there) by 2pm for dancing and celebrations until 5pm,  then to be back around 7pm for dinner. Well from 2pm till 5pm all we did was sit in the heat listening to speeches, again all in Indonesian. We felt for the dancers who actually had to sit in the sun. nobody was giving them drinks or moving them to the shade. We had one little water given to us and the toilet was a mission to find. At 1645 the speeches stopped, the dancers danced for 10 minutes then everyone left. That was it.

Dinner. As requested we all dressed up nicely, men in long pants, ladies well dressed. Only to get there and find all the officials  seated at what we presumed to be our tables. So we had to sit on the seats out the back and scrounge around for the left over food that wasn't already gobbled up. It was a real let down and everyone felt flat.

Our dinner venue. You can hardly see the chairs way, way up the back behind the tables where we all had to sit.
Not to be beaten we all went back to the hotel and drunk Tiger beers as they don't sell Bintang beers here, and laughed until the wind started to pick up. Given the signal of wind had been a proven precursor to squalls, a mad scramble to the tenders was on. The dingy dock made it dangerous but everyone made it back to their boats unhurt. The storm that night really turned it on. We had consistent winds over 25 knots, peaking at times to 35 knots from the west creating surf. In the anchorage was our rally fleet, the fleet from the Darwin rally, a fleet of power boats up from Singapore and another fleet we couldn't establish where from. There would have easily been over 60 vessels if not more in the bay and 3/4 of them all dragged.

The bottom of the bay is extremely foul. We must of lucked in the spot we choose as we didn't drag. Boats where hauling anchor and having to cut off the debris wrapped around their anchors. Wads of fishing nets combined with plastic bags, fishing line, plastic tubing and loads of other crap made this task very difficult and dangerous for some. One of our fleet ended up on the concrete steps behind them near one of the ferry terminals, and by sheer luck did not damage their boat. Some boats simply couldn't re-anchor during the storm due to so many other boats moving, a foul bottom and quite a few winches where failing.

A ferry terminal.
Most of the fleet did not get to bed until the storm eased and their anchors well set again, and this was well after 0300. The next morning on shore many a story of wow came out and even though the damage to some boats was minimal on some, more substantial on others every one of us gave enormous comfort to each other - it was a very harrowing night for everyone.

A day spent walking the streets was a highlight to see TP in its raw state.

Dried goods.

Yep - dried Seahorses.
We found TP, to be the most populated island and on one walk around found the rubbish situation difficult to understand and process in our minds. How this situation can be left and what seemed to be ignored by the population is difficult to understand. A walk through the markets was in some parts revolting to say the least and as we meandered around the streets more cesspits of rubbish left us all speechless. The people of TP, like most other places we went to, need to be educated about rubbish disposal and control.

The rubbish 'bin' at the market. Kids playing in it. The smell was atrocious.

A dingy ride the day before we left we got to see some of the harbour. Its very different to anything we have ever seen, and quite beautiful in some regards.

Egg delivery.

This hill was jam packed with buildings.
That said the people where all lovely, very welcoming and the food delicious especially in the night markets and local eateries. We would like to go back for a longer stay one day to explore and to understand their history. Quite a fascinating place to visit and TP's proximity to Singapore is a bonus - 2 hours on the fast ferry!

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